Category Archives: Alumni

Integrity Matters.

Five on a Treasure Island, by English author Enid Blyton, the first book in The Famous Five series.

Integrity matters. 

I learned about integrity from my parents, and from my teachers. I do remember a young-age incident, around first or second grade. My older sister and I broke into a locked room in our rented house (Olinbury House in Sussex, England) which held a treasure of books that we wanted to read. We knew we should not enter that room. However, we could see through the keyhole more books, in the very same enchanting series we loved. This was around 1968. Books still ruled the day—and we were already spending 100 percent of our allowance on books to read. So that was the temptation, more books. 

In the scullery, we noticed a set of keys that we tried against this locked room. In the bathtub, while reading this book, as my mother could not tear me away from it, somehow the truth came out.  Later that evening, I was punished a multiple factor more than I would have been, because of not being truthful about where I had “found” the book. My poor older sister was punished even more than me, “as she should have known better.” She was 9, and I was 7. 

I strongly remember another incident, in sixth grade. We were a set of students at different levels, all “learning” math (without actual instruction). I had fallen behind, and so I faked my homework, copying the answers from the back of the book. Mercifully, I was caught by the teacher, checking my work. I found this incident profoundly disturbing, and I remember feeling ashamed of myself. It was then, about age 11, that I fully realized it was my own decision what sort of integrity I would possess, across my life. In that moment, I believe, my character was set.

Fast forward. Throughout this past year, I’ve been in frequent correspondence with one of our engineering alumni. He lives in California and regularly sends me clippings from the LA Times concerning the admissions scandals at USC. While I do understand parents being concerned about their child’s education, I do not understand how a parent would compromise not only their own, but also their child’s integrity, out of a desire to have them be admitted to a university on a basis other than their own merit.

At Michigan Tech—of course, as you know—no one can earn a degree except through their own work. With this comes character. Along with character comes  confidence, courage, and conviction in the knowledge that with enough time and resourcesyou can do pretty much anything.

The picture below is from our Department of Mechanical Engineering’s senior dinner, where soon-to-be-graduates make an obligation to themselves to uphold the standards of the engineering profession, known as The Order of The Engineer.

Order of the Engineer ceremony, Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University.

That evening, in my first year as Dean of Engineering at Michigan Tech, I participated as well:

“As an Engineer, I, Janet Callahan, pledge to practice integrity and fair dealing, tolerance and respect; and to uphold devotion to the standards and the dignity of my profession, conscious always that my skill carries with it the obligation to serve humanity by making the best use of the Earth’s precious wealth. As an Engineer, I shall participate in none but honest enterprises. When needed, my skill and knowledge shall be given without reservation for the public good. In the performance of duty and in fidelity to my profession, I shall give my utmost.”

Now, if you’re interested in taking this oath (if you haven’t already) and you want to know more, please let me know—Callahan@mtu.edu.

Janet Callahan, Dean
College of Engineering
Michigan Tech


Engineering Alumni Activity Fall 2019

Kristen Mariuzza
Kristen Mariuzza

With organizational changes within Lundin Mining, CEE alumna and PCA member Kristen Dolkey-Mariuzza has accepted the position of Vice President – Environment & Social Performance. Kristen is currently employed with Lundin Mining as the Eagle Mine Managing Director. Mariuzza is a licensed professional engineer and holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering from Michigan Technological University.

Shawn Vij
Shawn Vij

Michigan Tech alumnus Shawn Vij ’92, was the subject of the article “Author Shawn Vij Talks About Corporate Success in his upcoming book,” in The Statesman, one of India’s oldest English newspapers. As Vij clearly states, “It is about ‘being’ a conscious business that raises the overall human condition.” It is not about philanthropy, charity, or corporate social responsibility but rather about always being a conscious business. It’s about each of us doing the right thing always. Vij holds an MBA from Purdue University; MS in Engineering from the University of Michigan and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan Technological University.

James A. Morrison is part of a team that received the 2019 Best in Small Projects Award by the Design-Build Institute of America at #DBIACON. The project involved the rearmoring of the 9-foot sediment bypass tunnel at Mud Mountain Dam in King County, Washington. Morrison, Vice President of COWI, has a BS and MS in Civil Engineering from Michigan Tech.

Doug Parks
Doug Parks

Doug Parks, a longtime General Motors engineer who oversees its autonomous and electric-vehicle programs, will become the automaker’s global product development and purchasing chief. Parks joined GM as a tooling engineer shortly after graduating from Michigan Technological University in 1984 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. His career included time as chief engineer of the Pontiac Solstice, Chevrolet Cobalt and Chevy Volt. He was promoted to vice president of global product programs under Barra when she was the head of product development.

Thomas Stout
Thomas Stout

HDR has hired Thomas Stout to be part of the advanced technologies for surface transportation practice as the inductive pavement leader. This emerging practice uses inductive charging technology to wirelessly charge stationary and in-motion vehicles. “Vehicle electrification and automation go hand-in-hand and present many exciting opportunities,” Stout said. Stout has a doctorate in computer engineering from North Carolina State University and received his master’s and bachelor’s degree from Michigan Technological University in electrical engineering and computer engineering respectively.

Michigan Tech Alumnus Jung-Hoe Hopgood ’99, was mentioned in the article regarding the Keystone XL hearing in Pierre, South Dakota. Hopgood, a senior engineer with EXP Global Inc. out of Florida, was accepted by the board as an expert witness during Tuesday’s meeting in Pierre. The story appeared in the Daily Republic. Hopgood earned an undergraduate degree in environmental engineering from Michigan Technological University before earning a masters degree in business administration from Ohio State University

Matt Smorch
Matt Smorch

Michigan Tech alumnus Matt Smorch ’89 has been named president and CEO of CountryMark. Scorch earned a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and joined CountryMark in 2001. CountryMark is an American-owned oil exploration, production, refining and marketing company. The story appeared in Morning Ag Clips.

Rachael Barlock
Rachael Barlock

Rachael Barlock has received the 2019 Young Professional of the Year Award from the Michigan Section of the American Water Works Association. Barlock has demonstrated her facilitation and leadership skills working with water providers along the Huron-to-Erie Corridor in the update of the drinking water monitoring network. She holds a BS in environmental engineering and an MS in civil engineering from Michigan Tech.

Julie Neph
Julie Neph

The Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA) has found its new chief bridge engineer: longtime Assistant Bridge Engineer Julie Neph. Neph, who has been with the MBA for the majority of her career, will begin her new role on Nov. 3. Neph has been responsible for management of a variety of both in-house and contracted projects for the maintenance of the Mackinac Bridge and facilities. She keeps 4 million motorists safe every year. She and Executive Secretary Kim Nowack represent the MBA as members of the International Cable Supported Bridge Operators Association. Neph joined the MBA after one year in the Michigan Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) Engineering Development Program. She graduated from Michigan Technological University with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering. Her hometown is Sanford, and she currently lives in Cheboygan with her husband, Dave. They have two sons who are both currently attending college.

Denise Rizzo
Denise Rizzo

Denise Rizzo (ME-EM PhD 2014) was elected fellow of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) for 2019. Dr. Rizzo is Senior Research Mechanical Engineer at the U.S. Army CCDC Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC), formally U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research and Development Engineering Center (TARDEC)

Don Njegovan
Don Njegovan

Michigan Tech alumnus Don Njegovan was featured in the article “Osisko Mining Appoints Mr Don Njegovan as COO,” In Steel Guru. In his role as Chief Operating Officer, Mr Don will have overall responsibility for coordinating the feasibility study for the Windfall Project, organization of the development of mining activities and leadership of the mining team for Osisko. Njegovan holds a Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering from Michigan Technological University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Manitoba.

Michigan Tech mechanical engineering alumnus Keith A. Foerster was featured in the article “Lazydays Names Foerster VP of Service Operations,” in RVBusiness. According to a press release, Foerster joins Lazydays from Heraeus Medical Components, where he served as president and general manager of North and Central America Operations and led a team of 800 employees in four operating locations.

Brandon Maurisak
Brandon Maurisak

Civil Engineering alumnus Brandon Maurisak is one of Mass Transit’s 40 Under 40. Mass Transit Magazine recognizes 40 young individuals each year that are making a name in the public transit industry. Public transit and rail electives were offered as part of the civil engineering degree program at Michigan Tech, which Maurisak credits for exposing him to characteristics of transit modes, route planning and system operations. His early exposure to rail transit and his professional life came full circle when, in 2013, following his recruitment by AECOM, he worked on the design of an extension of the system kick started by the Hiawatha.

Jason Markesino
Jason Markesino

Michigan Tech alumnus Jason Markesino was featured in the article “2019 Engineering Leader Under 40: Jason Markesino, 37,” in Control Engineering. Markesino has a BS in Mechanical Engineering with Robotics and Automation Emphasis from Michigan Tech. In 2013, Jason became the lead electrical mentor of Team RUSH, a FIRST Robotics Team.

Karl Haapala
Karl Haapala

Michigan Tech alumnus Karl Haapala, ’01, 03 ’08, was featured in the article “OSU Researchers Discuss Sustainability in Additive Manufacturing and New Sustainable Development Methodology,” in AdditiveManufacturing.com. Haapala is an Associate Professor in the School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering at Oregon State University, where he directs the Industrial Sustainability Lab and serves as Assistant Director of the OSU Industrial Assessment Center. He received his BS (2001) and MS (2003) in Mechanical Engineering, and his PhD (2008) in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics as an NSF IGERT trainee, all from Michigan Technological University.


You’re invited: Write a Guest Blog for the Michigan Tech College of Engineering News

Photo of white old fashioned typewriter on an old wooden desk or tabletop.
Remember these? We sure do! Photo by Bernard Hermant.

Michigan Tech electrical engineering alumnus Charles L. Hand ’62 recently authored a guest blog, Circumnavigating Lake Superior, featured on the College of Engineering news website. Now that Chuck has paved the way with his wonderful article, we hope more alumni will want to do the same!

If you are a Michigan Tech engineering alumni, and you’d like to share a story on our news blog, please email your idea and/or article to Kimberly Geiger, outreach coordinator in the College of Engineering, kmgeiger@mtu.edu. We look forward to hearing from you!

 


Michigan Tech Alum Sirak Seyoum Attempts Mount Everest

Sirak Seyoum stands in front of what seems to be a massive crevasse on his climb up Mount Everest
Sirak Seyoum admires the dynamic Khumbu Glacier on Mount Everest

This past spring Michigan Tech ECE alumnus Sirak Seyoum, an electrical engineer living in San Francisco, took time off his professional position at Cargill to climb Mount Everest. His goal: to become the first Ethiopian to conquer Everest, the highest mountain in the world.

As a young boy, Sirak Seyoum grew up in Gondar, Ethiopia, idolizing sports legends like soccer superstar Pelé and Olympic marathon champion Abebe Bikila. After discovering his own passion 11 years ago, Seyoum has been climbing mountains pretty much nonstop ever since, some more than once, about 21 in all. (Scroll down to the end of this post to see the full list.)

Seyoum and members of his rope team started their trek from Lukla to Everett Base Camp on April 5th. Their bid for the summit took place 41 days later. Starting at Camp 4 at 9pm on May 15th, the team climbed throughout the night. By 9:54 AM the next morning, Seyoum was just 200-300 meters from the summit of Everest, at 28,210 feet. “I could literally feel the summit and how beautiful it was, but obeyed the order from my Sherpa, telling me to go back down.”

Check out Seyoum’s Everest Power BI chart, to see the live data gathered from his Gen3 satellite device throughout his climb.

Now back home in the Bay Area, Seyoum is already preparing for next year. He’s planning to climb Everest once again, but this time via the north side in Tibet, China—a more challenging and difficult route.

A head and shoulders photo of Sirak with yellow tent behind him, at Everest Base Camp for the first time, sitting in the dining room.
At Everest Base Camp for the first time, sitting in the dining room.

Q: When did you first start to climb mountains?
I began climbing in 2008 while living in Las Vegas, Nevada. It started out with a small hike up a 5,000 ft. mountain after declining a coworker’s repeated invites and then finally accepting. I was hooked right away and spent every weekend hiking and climbing.

Q: Does being an engineer help you as a mountain climber? And how does being a mountain climber help you as an engineer?
Interesting question. Being an engineer helps support part of my mountain climbing with the necessary funds needed to train for such climbs. Being a mountain climber helps me purge thoughts, and sometimes great ideas come to life during my climbs.

Q: This year especially, there were many news reports about overcrowding on Mount Everest. What was your experience, and how might the problem best be solved?
Overcrowding has always been an issue over the years but what makes this year stand out most is the amount of inexperienced climbers and Sherpas. The combination of both together is deadly. This year there were only a few days to plan the summit bid, due to bad weather. Our team went for the summit during the coldest period of the 2019 season which didn’t attract most climbers hence traffic was minimal. The temps were at -40 degrees. The winds were estimated at 35-45 km/hr.

Q: Is descending the mountain harder than climbing up? Is there a greater risk of falling?
Very true. Descending is more challenging because of muscle loss and fatigue due to not having enough calories during the entire climb.

Q: During your bid for the summit, while climbing at night at such a high elevation, how did it feel?
The stars are way closer and the sky seems to be running out of room for them. What’s also incredible is that at Everett Base Camp, during the day when the sun is out, we could hear the melting of the glaciers all around us, sounding like a tropical island with a nearby stream or waterfall. In the evening, melting stops and sounds of avalanche cascade one after another throughout the night. It was incredible.

Q: What was the biggest lesson you learned by attempting Mount Everest?
Never ever stop supplementing your body with electrolytes, water, and energy bars (Ollybars) during and after climbing, especially on the summit bid day.

Q: What was the best part?
The views from Lhotse Face. Reaching Camp 4 with ease and feeling the summit.

Q: What was the biggest challenge?
Lhotse Face. Standing just below Hillary Step, feeling the peak and deciding to turn back around.

Q: You plan to climb next year, via the North side. How will you prepare⁠—mentally, emotionally, physically⁠—for this more difficult route?
Though every step of climbing via the south side was challenging in every way, I have learned a lot about my abilities, and most of all nutrition. My tolerance for high altitude was much higher than I expected, which provides me with a huge boost of mental confidence. The rest will come in line because the hardest part of training is the mental confidence.

Q: Anything more to add?
I would like to recognize and thank my sponsors, Walia and Ollybars. I’d also like to thank Brenda Rudiger, Assistant Vice President for Alumni Engagement at Michigan Tech, for mailing my MTU neck gator and MTU stickers. I have one showing on my mountaineering suit, top left side.

Seyoum’s conquest of some of the most challenging mountains around the world is testament to his level of fitness. Visit Sirak Seyoum’s Facebook page to read posts and watch videos from his climb of Mt. Everest, and learn more about his second attempt.

Last, but not least: While a little anxious, Seyoum’s mother, Dr. Fantaye Mekbeb is his number one fan. Seyoum’s father, Dr. Seyoum Taticheff, passed away in 2011 but was always proud and supportive of his son’s mountain climbing ambitions.

Crossing the Geneva Spu with oxygen mask onr, on exposed rocky sections. Around the bend is Camp 4.
Crossing the Geneva Spur, on exposed rocky sections. Around the bend is Camp 4.
Seyoum at Camp 2 holding up a big blue flag that says Walia prior to heading up to Camp 3, and higher. Walia beer, a product of Heineken primarily sold in Ethiopia, was one of Seyoum's climbing sponsors.
Seyoum at Camp 2 prior to heading up to Camp 3, and higher. Walia beer, a product of Heineken primarily sold in Ethiopia, was one of Seyoum’s climbing sponsors.
April 2019: Sirak Seyoum at High Camp Lobuche, Nepal
Sirak stands with backpack at Gorakshep, a small Himalayan Village at an elevation of about 16,942 ft. Note the iconic sign, "Way to Everest Base Camp".
At Gorakshep, a small Himalayan Village at an elevation of about 16,942 ft. Note the iconic sign, “Way to Everest Base Camp”.
Sirak with heavy backpack n the trail, shortly after leaving Hotel Everest View at about 13,000 ft.
On the trail, shortly after leaving Hotel Everest View at about 13,000 ft.
On the way back down, at one of the many suspension bridges, Seyoum takes a final selfie
On the way back down, at one of the many suspension bridges, a final selfie
Sirak Seyoum with fellow climbers Keval Kakka and Avtandil Tsintsadze in Lobuche, Nepal.
A previous climb: Sirak in the lead on Mt. Chopicalqui, Peru (2015)
Sirak Seyoum waves the Ethiopian flag atop Mt Chopicalqui, Peru (2015)
Atop Mt. Chopicalqui, Peru (2015)

All the mountains (excluding Everest at 8,848 meters) Seyoum has climbed to date:

UNITED STATES
Mt. Rainier, WA, 4392 meters
Mt. Whitney, CA, 4421 meters
Mt. Shasta, CA, 4321 meters
Mt. Wilson, NV, 2056 meters
Mt. Charleston, NV, 2289 meters
Griffith Peak, NV, 3371 meters
Black Mountain, NV 5092 meters
Bridge Mountain, NV, 6955 meters
Mummy Mountain, NV 2264 meters
Rainbow Wall, Red Rock Canyon, NV

MEXICO
Nevada de Toluca, 4680 meters

NEPAL
Mt. Kalapathar, 5644 meters
Island Peak, 6189 meters
Lobuche East, 6119 meters

PERU
Mt. Chopicalqui, 6345 meters
Mt. Pisco5752 meters
Mt. Urus, 5423 meters
Mt. Ishinca, 5530 meters

ECUADOR
Mt. Cotopaxi, 5897 meters
Mt. Chimborazo, 6263 meters
Mt. Antisana, 5704 meters

 


Expanded Online Engineering Programs, Certificates, and Course Offerings

Using computer simulation to design new materials and guide new processing methods, a student sits at a computer with code on one screen and microimages of metallurgical materials on a big screen above.
Using computer simulation to design new materials and guide new processing methods.

Michigan Tech’s College of Engineering is expanding undergraduate and graduate online course offerings. This will enhance learning opportunities for undergraduate students who are off-campus for an internship or coop experience, and also significantly increase graduate level opportunities for learning new skills.

Lifelong learning and professional development are desired by many employers. Get a leg up on your career advancement or take courses to fulfill continuing education requirements. Learn more about what online programs are currently available and to apply for regular admissions or non-degree seeking graduate student status.

Available online course offerings exist in civil and environmental engineering, electrical and computer engineering, engineering, materials science and engineering, and mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics. A sample of courses offered this Fall 2019 include MEEM5650 Advanced Quality Engineering, MEEM5655 Lean Manufacturing, CEE5212 Prestressed Concrete Design, EE5455 Cybersecurity Industrial Control Systems, and MSE5760 Vehicle Battery Cells and Systems.

A series of new graduate certificate offerings are under development, to be launched in 2020, including topics in Manufacturing, Industrial Applications and Practices, and more. These graduate certificates will typically have 9 or 10 credits, and can be “stacked” with each other over time, leading to a master’s degree from Michigan Tech.

Learn more about what online programs are currently available and to apply for regular admissions or non-degree seeking graduate student status.

Questions? Please contact College of Engineering Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Dr. Leonard Bohmann.


Karl (’85 BSME) and Christine LaPeer (’85 BSMT) to Receive Humanitarian Award

Karl and Christine LaPeer, photo taken at the son's recent wedding standing in front of a waterfall
Karl and Chris LaPeer

Karl and Christine (Blood) LaPeer practice their humanitarian efforts at Michigan Tech, funding seven, four-year scholarships—and also around the world. The LaPeers are both 1985 Michigan Tech graduates, Karl with a BSME degree, and Christine with a BSMT degree. Michigan Tech’s Alumni Association will present them with the University’s Humanitarian Award at the upcoming Alumni Reunion on August 2.

The Michigan Tech Humanitarian Award is presented to those alumni and friends who, through their outstanding involvement and dedication, have made a significant contribution of volunteer leadership or service which has improved or enriched the lives of others and the welfare of humanity.

During his time at Tech, Karl vividly remembers the second day of classes as his most memorable, saying “I met my future bride (now wife of 32 years) on the second day of classes in a calculus class. I would have to say that was the best thing that ever happened to me at Michigan Tech.”

After graduation, Karl joined Fanuc Robotics to design industrial robots for the automotive industry. He returned to his studies, in business this time, at the University of Michigan where he became a Henry Ford Scholar, graduated first in his class, and earned his MBA in 1993. After a few years working in the business world, Karl helped start Peninsula Capital Partners, an investment company, where he works to this day. His diverse background in engineering and business allows him to assess both the financial and operational aspects of an investment opportunity. He is a licensed professional engineer, speaks fluent German, and is a member of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute, a global association of investment professionals. He is also an active member in his church and frequently serves as a lay minister.

Over the course of the last decade Karl and Chris have helped fund one of the largest mission movements in history, and funded ministries ranging from Christian bands to missionaries and evangelists.

Between 2013 and 2014, the LaPeers and their children, working through the Angel House initiative, funded the building of three Angel House Orphanages (25 children each) and two freshwater wells in India. Angel House is a focused rescue initiative for abandoned orphans and trafficking victims throughout India and Southeast Asia. In May 2013 Karl, Chris, and their daughter, Elayna, dedicated an orphanage. In December 2013 their daughter, Heather, dedicated an orphanage and village well; in December of 2014 their son, Nate, dedicated another orphanage and village well.

The LaPeers served as part of the 1Nation1Day (1N1D) 2015 mission outreach in the Dominican Republic as part of a team of over 2,000 foreign aid workers providing pairs of shoes to children, distributing meals, training business leaders, and providing clean water. During this time Chris also worked in medical clinics around the country treating patients for free, while Karl and their daughter Elayna led the campaign’s University Forum program where 5,600 university students were empowered in 38 forums led by 33 business leaders from around the world.

In Nicaragua in 2017 (1N1D) Karl and Chris were part of a team of 2,800 foreign aid workers in which 8,941 people were treated for free at eight medical clinics, 270,000 meals were distributed, 438 small homes were built, 1,220 business leaders were trained, 16,000 people were provided with clean water, over 100,000 primary school students were given hope in school assemblies, 6,111 women were empowered at conferences, and 3,600 attended pastor conferences. Karl and Chris also headed the 1Nation1Day team in the department (state) of Boaco.

Most recently, the LaPeers traveled to Peru for 1N1D Un Solo Peru 2019, joining the team in Tarapoto, in the Amazon Region of Peru. They co-led the state, working with the 150 foreign missionaries. Chris ran a medical clinic with over 30 medical professionals that treated, at no cost, nearly 1,500 patients in five days. Karl gave lectures at universities, spoke at leadership and business conferences, churches, press conferences, and also gave media interviews.

Their son, Nate (25), daughter-in-law Elizabeth (25), and two daughters, Heather (29) and Elayna (12) also made the trip. “They spent the week in the schools, helping kids understand that they are special and uniquely designed to make a difference in the world by a personal God,” says Karl. “Along with our coworkers, we helped fund two clean-water projects, as well—one in Tarapoto and one in Cusco—that are now providing clean, safe water to people who have never had a drink of safe water in their lives.”

Their goal now, as a family, says Karl, is to “dig deeper to reach more people with a message of hope, purpose, and eternitynot just on foreign mission trips, but each day where we live and work,” says Karl.

The LaPeers are already planning future trips. First, a return trip to India to visit the four orphanages and two water projects they dedicated five years ago. Next summer a trip to Los Angeles, California to join with 20,000 missionaries from around the world. “We’re also being tugged back to Tarapoto, in Peru, to do some follow-up work with business leaders, university students, and churches—and there is an invitation to visit both Cambodia and Pakistan with organizations we know.” Adds Karl: “We can’t see how we can do it all, but we’ll see.”


Outstanding Alumni and Friends to be Recognized at Alumni Reunion Dinner August 2019

Reunion DinnerEngineering alumni will be among those recognized at the Alumni Reunion Awards Dinner on campus August 2, 2019.

Outstanding Young Alumni

Distinguished in their careers before the age of 35; achieved a position or some distinction noteworthy for one so recently graduated

Outstanding Service

Significant contributions to the success of the Board of Directors and/or the University

Distinguished Alumni

Outstanding contributions in both their careers and to Michigan Tech

Humanitarian Award

Volunteer leadership or service that has improved or enriched the lives of others and the welfare of humanity, and whose accomplishments reflect admirably on or bring honor to their Alma Mater


Lift Bridge Wins Award, Snags Trailer⁠—Built to Last 

Portage Lake Lift Bridge is a double-deck, vertical lift bridge, the only one of its type in Michigan. Here shown with a blue sky and summer day in the background.
The monumental Portage Lake Lift Bridge—a double-deck, vertical lift bridge—is the only one of its type in Michigan.

The Portage Lake Bridge, or more commonly known as the Lift Bridge, was designated in May, 2019 as an American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Michigan State Historic Civil Engineering Landmark of the Year. Built in 1959, the bridge provides a key role in connecting the Keweenaw’s local industries to the nation, and uses a first-of-its-kind intermediate lift span position. It also was an early example of accelerated bridge construction. 

The Lift Bridge is a double-deck vertical lift bridge⁠—the only one of its type in Michigan and uncommon nationwide. While the lower deck was originally used by trains; these days, snowmobiles roar through the lower deck in winter. This riveted steel bridge was built to support the Keweenaw’s copper mining and logging industries and to serve the nation’s need for copper and timber. So you might say, it’s built to carry heavy loads!

the Caterpillar motor in the boat Janet was in
One of two Caterpillar engines on Don’s boat.

I was invited one recent Friday to meet one of our civil engineering alumni from the class of ‘66, Donald R. Anderson. He was docked in Hancock, just east of the Lift Bridge, traveling with his son, up from Grand Haven. They were in town waiting for the extended family, to arrive and spend a few weeks together on the boat as they worked their way through the Apostle Islands area. We were chatting, taking a look at the engines, and enjoying some local cider when BAM! A very loud boom sounded from the Lift Bridge. We all turned to watch as a tandem trailer loaded with trailers pulled to a halt. Over the next hour, inspections of the rig, and bridge seemed to happen while we looked up from below with high-tech binoculars and speculated about the impact. We figured that being in tandem, one of the trailers rocked up just as the truck pulled through and snagged that edge a bit. The truck eventually pulled down and around and took time to do a safety check just behind the marina.

A section of the lift bridge is shown with a tandem trailer loaded with trailers inside
A tandem trailer loaded with trailers comes to a halt on the Lift Bridge

On my way home, pedaling across the bridge I stopped and took a few images. You can see how there is a bit of battered metal at the leading edge on the Houghton side. No easy way to tell what marks are new or old from down on the ground (and I am a metallurgist). My assessment⁠—that bridge was built to last. I bet it will still be in use for its 100th anniversary. They build things to last up here in the Keweenaw. And remember your metallurgy: steel can plastically deform and even strengthen as a result of the increased number of dislocations.

underside of Portage Lake Lift Bridge
Lift Bridge wear and tear 

Dr. Tess Ahlborn, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Technological University, working with two recent civil engineering masters of science graduates Emma Beachy and Michael Prast, submitted the application of Lift Bridge for Historic Civil Engineering Landmark Award at both the state and national levels. While Lift Bridge has now won the state ASCE Landmark of the Year award, the jury’s still out on the national level award. You can read more about the Lift Bridge here.

Thank you Tess, Emma and Michael, and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, for the 300 pages of historical content that supported the nomination.

Dr. Tess Ahlborn, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director of the Center for Structural Durability at Michigan Tech

Mining Engineering: The Best of Both Worlds

Julie (Varichak) Marinucci earned her Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2002. She is now Mineral Development Specialist at St. Louis County Land and Minerals Department in Hibbing, Minnesota.
Julie (Varichak) Marinucci earned her Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2002. She is now Mineral Development Specialist at St. Louis County Land and Minerals Department in Hibbing, Minnesota.

After a 15-year break, Mining Engineering officially returns to Michigan Tech, with BS, MS, and PhD degree programs and cutting-edge research. Learn more online

Julie Marinucci earned her Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering from Michigan Tech in 2002. She knew early on that mining would enable her to work globally, but also return home someday to northern Minnesota and have a good career there, too. Turns out, she was right.

What fostered your own path to studying and working in mining?
Mining Engineering kind of landed in my lap. I knew I wanted to be an engineer of some type and that I wanted to work outdoors. Civil Engineering seemed like the most likely choice, but then I met Murray Gillis, a mining engineering instructor at Michigan Tech. Murray was at a local college fair and he sparked my curiosity, not just in Michigan Tech, but also in Mining Engineering. My campus visit, and spending the summer after high school working in a mine, sealed the deal!

Describe some challenges that you face in your work.
The biggest challenge is the general misunderstanding of the mining industry. Many people do not understand the amount of care that goes into extracting minerals for the conveniences and protections we as a society have come to expect. Mining considers the full lifecycle of the land, careful consideration of the environmental conditions prior to mining, efficient extraction of the minerals of interest, and thoughtful reclamation with the next generation of land use in mind. I have always thought a big part of my job is to ensure the general public understands the efforts taken in developing a mine.

What has changed the most in mining engineering over the course of your career?
The continuous evolution of technology in mine planning has been fun to watch. Operations are now utilizing drone technology and laser scanning to manage pit operations, blast efficiency, ore grading, and more. I had the opportunity to work with engineers early in my career who had the large map tables and boxes of colored pencils. Fast forward now to laser scanners, drones, remote equipment monitoring, and more!

What changes do you expect to see in the future of mining?
I expect to see the way we work in mining to evolve, and look to more flexible work arrangements that will bring in a more diverse workforce. The days where you must be at your 1950’s steel desk working from 6 am to 6 pm will evolve into the ability to work remotely. It will allow for a different type of operational accessibility while providing for better balance in life.

What is your most surprising experience as a mining engineer to date?
When I started down the journey to become a mining engineer, I envisioned working my way through an operation in a very technical role. Through the years, I found that my degree has allowed me to reinvent myself many times over.

I started my career with Caterpillar in a marketing position. It was completely unexpected, but Cat was looking for someone who could understand the equipment, understand the mining industry, and effectively communicate with clients. What a great job! I went on to enjoy many roles at Cleveland Cliffs iron mining operations, where I learned to be an engineer, manage operation crews in the pit, and had the great learning experience of working at a greenfield operation in Canada (with a language barrier!). When I decided to leave Cliffs, I discovered the contacts I had made, along with understanding of mining operations, positioned me well for a career in consulting. My time with Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. working in business development for mining and heavy industry taught me how to assemble a team to help solve problem and deliver a successful project.  Then came my current role, with St. Louis County—a brand new position created to ensure that the vast mineral wealth held within the county was protected. The chance to define the job and lay out the mining and mineral strategy for the county was too good to pass up. St. Louis County holds world class iron, copper and nickel deposits, to name a few, and has a long mining history of over 130 years. As Mineral Development Specialist, I work closely with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and local mining and exploration companies and communities, to ensure we are responsibly moving mining forward for the benefit of the region and the Tax Forfeited Land Trust.

Why do you think it was important to reinstate the mining engineering degree program at Michigan Tech?
Michigan Tech was founded as a mining engineering school and the demand that was created in 1858 still holds true today. Michigan Tech is positioned strategically near two large mining districts with growing interest in mineral development. The need for qualified mining professionals to move these project forward is great. The alumni network is willing to support these students through their education to ensure they have the best start possible.

Why should a student enter the field of mining engineering now?
The need for skilled mining engineers that love our region and want to stay, work and raise a family is strong, while the nationwide and global demand continues to grow. Mining in not for the faint of heart, but if you can weather the storm it’s a fulfilling career with many ways to leverage a mining engineering degree.

What are the greatest rewards and challenges mining engineers face now, and will face in the future?
Mining engineers should be proud to know that they are part of the fabric that maintains our quality of life, helps to grow our food, provides the materials for our ever-expanding tech advances, and keeps our families safe. This role in our modern life is not well-understood, but it’s a very important role. The future has great potential to continue to move our industry into next levels of efficiency, safe production, beneficial reuse of waste streams—and maybe mining the moon! The stars are the limit!

What’s next in your career?
I look forward to continuing to explore the opportunity to manage the land for mineral development, while planning for beneficial reuse of the land and the residuals. The ability to make an impact in my backyard is exciting and I look forward to evolving the role and myself over the years.


Guest Blog: Circumnavigating Lake Superior

Lake Superior. Photo credit: Nathan Fertig

In his guest blog, Michigan Tech electrical engineering alumnus Charles L. Hand ’62 tells the story of his journey around the largest freshwater lake, by surface area, in the world.

Chuck Hand stands at the waterfront on a low bluff
The author, Chuck Hand ’62

On September 10, 2018, via private automobile, I completed circumnavigating Lake Superior. It only took fifty-six years, a fascinating journey of over 1,300 miles. I made this adventure over five decades, in several cars, at numerous times, and with diverse friends and relatives. Come join me exploring this fascinating body of water.

The attraction of the immense Great Lakes is irresistible. During the first eighteen years of my life, I lived within thirty miles of Lake Erie in Tecumseh, in the southeastern corner of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Having a picnic on its shores and swimming in its crystal-clear cool waters was always a treat.

For the next fifteen years, I lived and worked within a mile of the shores, first of Lake Superior, then Lake Michigan. Witnessing gigantic freighters, called “lakers”, transporting their precious cargoes of iron ore, coal, and grain from Duluth at the western tip of Lake Superior to markets in eastern United States and the rest of the world, intrigued me. Riding the ferry carrying railroad cars, automobiles, and other passengers on a four-hour journey across Lake Michigan was a unique pleasure.

As a young lad, my first exposure to Lake Superior was with my parents while on vacation from our home in southeastern Michigan. We traveled across the Straits of Mackinac via car ferry to the Upper Peninsula cities of Sault Saint Marie, Marquette, Houghton, and Copper Harbor. Little did I know this initial excursion would lure me back again and again to the largest surface area freshwater lake in the world.

Vacationland, a car ferry in the Straits of Mackinac, going between Mackinac City and St. Ignace.

In my senior year of high school, I answered a Michigan College of Mining and Technology (now Michigan Technological University) recruiter’s invitation. He convinced me to spend the next four years of my life at the snow-blanketed engineering monastery in Houghton. Not only was I studying and learning a profession, but was experiencing the Scandinavian heritage of the Keweenaw Peninsula, the death knell of the booming copper mining era, and the lake’s climatic effect as it creates gigantic snow packs.

Photo from the Daily Mining Gazette, August 1958 of a billboard in Houghton that says "Welcome to the Copper Country. You are now breathing the purest, most vitalizing air on earth."
Photo from the Daily Mining Gazette, August 1958

After graduation in 1962, my chosen profession took me physically, although never emotionally, away from Lake Superior to Milwaukee, Chicago, and finally Southern California. I never forgot my college years in Houghton. Several times I returned to visit my alma mater, sometimes stopping at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Agawa Canyon in Ontario, or witnessing the great bulk cargo lakers ply their way through the Soo Locks in the St. Mary’s River. The best way to view this mighty parade of ships is first hand, cruising the St. Mary’s River on the deck of an excursion boat being raised and lowered twenty-one feet between Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Since 1957, the Straits of Mackinac could be crossed on one of the longest suspension bridges in the world.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Lake Superior, between the dunes.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Lake Superior
Agawa Canyon, Ontario
Agawa Canyon, Ontario
The Indiana Harbor makes its way through the Poe Lock, Soo Locks, Sault Ste. Marie
Lit up at night is the Mackinac Bridge in the Northern Lights. Photo credit: Jason Gillman
Mackinac Bridge in the Northern Lights. Photo credit: Jason Gillman

Asking to identify my favorite spot is like asking which of my children I love the most, but I will try.

In 1997, while living in Southern California, an opportunity to complete another portion of the circumnavigation adventure occurred. I was selected as a member the staff of the Ninth Canadian National Jamboree, hosted by Scouts Canada. It was scheduled for Thunder Bay, Ontario, but where was Thunder Bay? After some research, I discovered that the city was 100 miles, by water, directly north of Houghton. During the early 1960s it had been two cities, Fort William and Port Arthur, the largest grain shipping ports in the world at that time. With fellow scouting friends, I flew to Minneapolis then carpooled to the Jamboree along the spectacular scenic northwest shore of the lake, by way of Duluth and Grand Portage. My task was to introduce the Scouts to the wonders of the Great Lakes and its commerce. Part of the introduction was boarding a docked laker. After the Jamboree, we ventured eastbound through the forested solitude of the lake’s far north shore, driving through Nipigon and Wawa to the the lake’s eastern tip. Upon reaching Sault Saint Marie, a second major portion of the circumnavigation was complete.

The mighty MV Wigeon tied up at the dock at dawn, in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Photo credit: Thunder Bay Shipping
The MV Wigeon at dawn, in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Photo credit: Thunder Bay Shipping
Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada showing water, cliffs of rocks and green forest
Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Photo credit: Joseph Gatto
Lake Nipigon, Ontario

The leg of the circumnavigation adventure between Duluth and Houghton still needed to be completed. During the summer of 2008, my beautiful wife Doris, a native of Milwaukee, and I decided to vacation in areas of northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan that neither she nor I had ever visited. Again, we flew into Minneapolis, rented a car, and headed north. From Duluth at the western tip of Lake Superior with its international harbor, we turned east. After a stop to explore the archipelago called Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, my circumnavigation, upon reaching Houghton, was complete.

Apostle Islands Maritime Cliffs Wisconsin showing red orange cliffs, aqua blue green water, and trees growing from the cliff
Apostle Islands Maritime Cliffs, Wisconsin
first edition book cover of Paddle-to-the-Sea, by Holling Clancy Holling, © 1941, renewed © 1969, Houghton Miffin showing an illustration of a Native American paddling a canoe in the aqua lake with a yellow variegated sky above.
Paddle-to-the-Sea, by Holling Clancy Holling, © 1941, renewed © 1969, Houghton Miffin
“Our famous Canada goose,” photo credit: Municipality of Wawa

Asking to identify my favorite spot is like asking which of my children I love the most, but I will try. There is Houghton and Michigan Technological University, where four years of my life was spent launching a successful career in electrical power engineering. There is Sault Saint Marie and the gigantic Great Lake freighters carrying their cargos to the industrial centers of the United States and the world. There is Nipigon where the imaginary miniature toy canoe in the book, Paddle-to-the-Sea, started its epic journey through all five of the Great Lakes and on into the Saint Lawrence, crossing the Atlantic, culminating its journey along the shores of France. There is Wawa and their memorable, huge Canadian goose guarding the entrance to the city. For scenic beauty, both the north shore and the south shore are exquisitely picturesque, each in their own way.

But, Michigan Technological University (MTU) in Houghton has to be my favorite spot since it had a major positive influence on my entire life. Someday, I hope to return to Lake Superior and complete a second circumnavigation, although this second trek will probably be completed in slightly less time.

Lake Nipigon, Ontario
Orange sunset over Lake Superior on Agawa Bay, Ontario. Photo credit: Helena Jacoba
Agawa Bay, Ontario. Photo credit: Helena Jacoba
Proton arc, a rare, red type of aurora, over lake Superior. As the name indicates, proton arcs are caused not by electrons but by more massive protons that bombard the Earth's atmosphere following an energetic event on the Sun. Image won second place in the 2015 NOAA Weather in Focus Photo Contest. Photo credit: Ken Williams
Proton arc, a rare type of aurora, over lake Superior, with the yellow city lights of Marquette, Michigan in the distance. Photo credit: Ken Williams
Michigan Technological University looking south over Portage Canal.